Only 12 horses have taken the elusive title of Triple Crown champion: we’ve gathered up all the video we could find of that magical moment of transformation as the field crosses under the wire in the Belmont Stakes.
If you’re a horse racing fan, get ready to feel some goosebumps, a little echo of the past and a brush with immortality as we relive the magical moment when a horse becomes legend — when a Belmont Stakes victory is not just a win, but an elusive championship that few have ever earned.
Sir Barton: 1919
No video exists to the best of our knowledge from the 1919 Belmont Stakes, but Sir Barton was later recognized as the first winner of the Triple Crown. His victories predated the recognition of these three races as a series; it was not until 1930 that the concept of the Triple Crown was widely recognized.
Gallant Fox: 1930
This was the horse who effectively helped create the concept of the “Triple Crown” — the phrase had been in use lightly prior to his victory in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes, but became widespread after Gallant Fox’s feat.
Omaha was sired by Gallant Fox, making them the only father-son pair to both win the Triple Crown. He ran in the Withers Stakes between the Preakness and the Belmont and was beaten by Rosemont, who he then defeated in a thrilling stretch drive in the Belmont to earn his Triple Crown.
War Admiral: 1937
While fans of Seabiscuit might remember War Admiral as the “villain” to the plucky underdog, he was widely hailed as best son of the legendary Man O’War, and broke his sire’s record in his 1937 Belmont Stakes victory. While he’s still paired with Seabiscuit in racing lore, his race record and performance truly commands respect of its own.
Whirlaway was a bit of a quirky horse who liked to bear out and ran some of his early races on the outside rail. While trainer Ben Jones and jockey Eddie Arcaro did get a handle on the bearing out to a certain extent, Whirlaway kept everyone on their toes with his unpredictable race style. At his best, however, he put away the fields in all three Triple Crown races.
Count Fleet: 1943
Before Secretariat’s incredible 31-length margin of victory in the Belmont Stakes, there was Count Fleet, putting away his two opponents by over 20 lengths (often mis-reported as 30) and setting a new stakes record. The 1930s and 40s were a “golden age” for Triple Crown victories, however, and Count Fleet’s achievements were considered commonplace at the time.
Assault achieved what was the largest margin of victory at the time in the Kentucky Derby by eight lengths, and held on to win the Preakness though he was visibly tiring. This earned ire from critics at the time, but he made his statement in the Belmont Stakes by winning decisively.
By the end of his three-year-old season, Citation had won 27 of his 29 career starts and perhaps doesn’t get as much credit as he deserves for what he accomplished in his age bracket. He also became the first horse to earn over a million dollars on the track. His Belmont Stakes was a romp.
“He is moving like a tremendous machine.”
Still regarded as one of the greatest performances in horse racing history, there’s not much we can say about Secretariat’s performance, other than to let you feel chills while watching it again.
Seattle Slew: 1977
Seattle Slew was undefeated going into the Belmont Stakes — like Justify, making his bid tomorrow. Leading the Belmont wire to wire, Seattle Slew was essentially untouchable, and continued his perfect streak with a historic Triple Crown.
Hands-down the most exciting duel in Triple Crown history, Affirmed and Alydar’s famous rivalry was played out on the greatest stage in racing. These two colts had dueled nearly every step of their juvenile season and Triple Crown prep races, and Alydar had pressed Affirmed in both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness. Affirmed was the last Triple Crown winner before the infamous “37-year drought.”
American Pharoah: 2015
I think we all know how this story went, but why not watch it one more time? “The 37 year wait is over. American Pharoah is finally the one!”
We wish a safe trip to all competitors in tomorrow’s Belmont Stakes. Will Justify join this illustrious company?